During Flu Season, Is Your Cell Phone Making You Sick?

WARE — With the flu season underway, many people work hard at figuring out how to avoid getting sick.
“While it’s important to consider the standbys, including washing our hands, avoiding close contact with others who are ill, and getting the flu shot, when was the last time you cleaned your phone?” said Cerie Moon, Infection Prevention and Control practitioner at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital.
“We take our cell phones everywhere — to work, lunch, the grocery store, and the gym,” said Moon, noting that colds and flu are caused by viruses, which can easily pass from person to person, or from infected person to a surface to another person.
“When we get home, we set our phone down on the dinner table or the kitchen counter, and it often lands on our nightstand at the end of the day when we go to sleep,” she continued. “The problem with our smartphones is that we’re in constant contact with them, and they spend a lot of time in close proximity to our faces and mouth. Because it’s an electronic device, most people are hesitant to clean them, but viruses are known to live on inanimate objects.
“Studies have found colonies of streptococcus, staphylococcus, and diphtheroids on people’s cell phones,” Moon added. But there are things you can do to minimize the spread of bacteria or virus from your phone:
• Do not share cell phones with others. Wash your hands before handling your phone if you have to share it with someone.
• Use a hands-free set, earpiece, or speaker phone instead, to minimize keypad-to-face exposure.
• Use a plastic film to cover the surface of your phone, one that you can discard and replace, to minimize the infectious potential of your phone’s surface.
• Clean your phone with sanitizing wipes sold specifically for electronic devices. Don’t spray your phone with household chemicals and disinfectants, as they are too harsh for most phones and will damage them. If you must, use a wrung-out disinfectant wipe or spray a paper towel with disinfectant.
 “Remember that anything that is touched often — like computer keyboards, doorknobs, and the pens that are given to you when you sign for a credit-card purchase — are also surfaces that have great potential to harbor germs and viruses,” said Moon. “This winter season, do the basics: eat right, get adequate sleep, exercise, and wash your hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that keeping your hands clean is one of the greatest ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs.”
For more information about flu basics, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/flu.